Category Archives: roses

Thanksgiving Plants & Food

Have you noticed how many plants are named after food? At this time of year when we are thankful for friends and family and this wonderful place we call home, I can't help but think about food, too. It's the most important thing we share year round. We eat to celebrate, we eat to comfort ourselves. Surround yourself with plants that remind you to give thanks whenever you look at them.

What makes you think of Thanksgiving dinner more than pumpkin pie? Many versions have been created to appeal to just about any palate. If you grow Pumpkin Pie African daisy you can bring these recipes to mind whenever you admire the blooms in your garden. Flowering over a long season starting in the spring their showy, vivid orange flowers attract birds and butterflies.

Maybe you're a gourmet cook and desserts after Thanksgiving dinner are extraordinary at your house.  If you're not a fan of pumpkin perhaps a creme brulee  would be more to your liking. This classic dessert first appeared in cookbooks in 1691. Creme Brulee heuchera with its peachy-bronze leaves, Creme Brulee coreopsis with custard yellow blooms or a fragrant Creme Brulee shrub rose growing in your garden would remind you year round of this delicious dessert.

Someone often brings deviled eggs as an appetizer before Thanksgiving dinner usually sprinkled with a dusting of paprika. If you have several Paprika achillea in your low water-use, deer resistant garden you can think of these goodies every time you see them.

Who doesn't like chocolate any time of year? Dark chocolate, milk chocolate, hot chocolate, white chocolate, they're all good. Plant Chocolate Chip ajuga groundcover  with its beautiful lacy blue flower spikes in spring in sun or partial shade. It really stands out. And who could resist a rose called Hot Cocoa? This award-winning floribunda rose with ruffled, very fragrant chocolate-cherry colored blooms was first introduced in 2003 and has remained popular ever since.
 
If you don't have a chocolate cosmos to enjoy on a summer day in the garden you're missing a rare experience. Very deep burgundy flowers really do have the scent of chocolate. They make a good cut flower, look great with green and white in a bouquet and the fragrance is good enough to eat.

There are many plants that remind us of Thanksgiving with family or a get together any time of year and they all sound so delicious. Raspberry Sundae or Bowl of Cream peonies sound yummy as do Mango coneflower, Strawberry Candy daylily, Plum Pudding coral bell, Cranberry Ice dianthus, Lemon Swirl lantana, Watermelon Red crape myrtle, Tangerine Beauty bignonia or Wild Cherry azalea. How about Bowl of Cherries campanula, Carolina Allspice, Strawberry Lemonade mandevilla or Raspberry Tart coneflower?  I could go on and on.

My blooming Thanksgiving cactus says it all. Almost overnight it has burst into bloom reminding me of all the many things I am thankful for. Take the time to tell those around you how much you appreciate them and count your blessings every day.

Gardening with Children

The other day a young girl asked me, "Are you the lady that writes the flower column in the paper"? I was thrilled to know that my readership includes middle schoolers.  Our conversation soon turned to vegetables. Which are good to plant at this time of year and how late can they be started. Gardening can be a wonderful learning opportunity for all of us but especially for children.

In a garden, children can breathe fresh air, discover bugs and watch things grow. And, of course, a garden offers kids and everyone else fresh, tasty homegrown food. What better place for kids to play than in a place where they can use their hands and connect with the earth? Where else can they make a plan for a plot of land and learn the lessons of hope and wonder, suspense and patience and even success and failure? In a garden you can have conversations about life and even death in a way that doesn't seem so sad.

With the school year just starting, now would be the perfect time to encourage your child to grow something, keeping track of the progress by pictures and notes. Their daily actions really can make a difference for a sustainable future. Maybe what they learn could even be used for a school project. Here are some ideas.

September is the perfect time to start cool season vegetables. Carrots are fun to start from seed as they can be harvested even when small. For flavor it's difficult to beat a Nantes.   Nantes Coreless or Little Finger are two popular varieties.  They're not a carrot you'll find in the grocery store because they're difficult to harvest commercially and don't store well.  Both are juicy and sweet.  Nantes coreless grows to 6-7 " long, is blunt-tipped and fine grained.  Little Finger is unmatched for snacks, pickling or steaming.  It grows to just 3-4" long and is ideal for container gardening. too.

Red Cored Chantenay has broad shoulders and strong tapered tips.  This wedge-shaped carrot is also rarely grown by commercial growers.  For the home garden it produces 6" long carrots that keep well when left in the soil, store well after digging and are sweet and crunchy.  They perform well in heavy soil, too.

Danvers Half Long are another variety that are tasty raw, cooked, or juiced. They are one of the best carrots for storage as they stay crisp.  Carrots found at the super market are usually Imperators just so you know.

You can still start peas, beets, spinach, arugula, mustard and radish now from seed but it's better to start other veggies like lettuce, chard, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, onions, leeks and brussels sprouts from starts. If your veggies haven't gotten a good start before the soil cools, they'll just sit there until spring. Remember to rotate your crop locations so insects  and diseases don't cause problems. Also be sure to amend your soil with compost to replenish the nutrients that have been used by your summer veggies and flowers.  

Flowers in winter are always welcome so I like to plant early blooming types of sweet peas at this time of year. These varieties flower in the shorter days of late winter. Winter Elegance and Early Multiflora are common early flowering types. Also plant some of the more fragrant spring flowering heirlooms and Spencer's at the same time to extend your harvest time. My very favorite sweet pea with long stems for cutting and an intense fragrance is called April in Paris. Large ruffled blossoms are a soft primrose cream, tinted at the edges in dark lilac that deepens and increases with age. You can't go wrong no matter what color or style sweet pea you choose. They are all beautiful.

If you grow roses fertilize now to encourage another round of blooms.  A well-fed rose not only rewards you with beauty and fragrance but can stay healthy and resist attack from insects and diseases.   Roses grown in sandy soil or containers need more frequent feeding than those grown in loam or heavier soil.  Make sure the soils is moist before fertilizing and water well afterward.

Whatever you grow, include the kids in the garden. It's a free and fun activity.
 

Lessons from Butchart Gardens and the Pacific Northwest

I can see snow-covered Mt. Rainier from my sister's deck. Last night a rainbow bridged the Puget Sound which flows around Fox Island at the southern end of the sound. The landscape here is lush and green. Dogwoods, foxgloves and rhododendrons are still in full bloom. This temperate rain forest receives more rain than ours but I see many of the same woodland plants that we grow. I study each garden for new ideas.

The next day we head for Vancouver Island. As the clouds clear the Victoria Clipper pulls into the harbor. The Empress Hotel's landscaping is picture perfect. Purple rhododendron, hosta, and hellebore grow under the white Kousa dogwood trees. Late afternoon sun backlights each leaf. Gingko trees and weeping birch frame the Parliament building. The lights come on and outline each gable and tower. Still exploring the city later I look at my watch. It's after 10pm and still light. I forget we are closer to the land of the midnight sun at this latitude.

Visiting gardens is always the highlight of all my trips.  Butchart Gardens, a National Historic site of Canada, is a prime example of quarry restoration. Huge 100 year old poplar trees with gnarled trunks frame the famous sunken garden. Throughout the perfectly manicured lawns perennial beds grow oriental poppy, Japanese iris, Asian lily, hosta, black mondo grass, black-eyed susan, and lady's mantle. This kind of perfection comes with a price. We saw several gardeners raking and deadheading while several others cleaned around the stone border with pastry brushes.

Victoria is famous for its hanging baskets. At Butchart Gardens several hundred hand from every arbor, trellis, pergola and shepherd's hook. Mixed baskets of long blooming annuals and perennials are started early in the greenhouse then brought out in full bloom. One of my favorites featured peach-toned tuberous begonias, trailing sapphire lobelia, bacopa and coral calibrachoa. I was drawn to the dozens of hanging fuchsias and a rainbow of begonias planted with columbine, ferns and gold acorus grasses.

It must be fun to plant up the large pots that decorate the grounds. Even the wooden recycling receptacles have mixed planting on the top. Several noteworthy pots were planted with orange flowering maples paired with blue Mexican poppies and a variegated geranium. Another we liked contained a striking Electric Pink cordyline, coral petunia, calibroachoa and Bonfire begonia.

Fragrant flowers entice the senses and are planted everywhere. Strolling through the garden, vanilla scented heliotrope greet you. Spice-scented stock is planted nose high atop rock walls. Mrs. Butchart started this tradition and the garden strives to have something fragrant blooming every season of the year.

The roses were just starting to open. Many of them originated in England and Australia. The Queen's Pink peony Golden Jubilee was honored with decorative flags hung from the light posts. Flanked my tall gorgeous blue delphiniums it was quite a sight.

If it was early for the roses, the peony did not disappoint. I have never seen so many in one place. This climate is perfect for their culture. I had a hard time deciding which was my favorite. Double deep burgundy flowers grew alongside soft peach and bright pink ones. A cool white one paired well with Bridal Veil spirea. A soft peach variety looked great with the darker orange oriental poppies.

Always on the lookout for planting ideas, the endless vignettes were inspiring. The many different garden rooms in this garden allowed for countless combinations. One that caught my eye paired a purple smoke bush with coral verbascum and the variegated iris pallida. The blue flowers of the iris contrasted perfectly with the coral flowers and burgundy foliage of the other two plants.

I saw this garden in a new light on this visit. It was spectacular. Next week I'll recount my visit to Abkhazi Garden outside Victoria.

A Ben Lomond Garden Coexists with Deer

One of the perks of writing this gardening column for the Press Banner is being invited to visit beautiful gardens. I  recently had the honor to tour the garden of fellow columnist, Colly Gruczelak, writer of Plain Talk About Food, at her home in Ben Lomond. I've known Colly for many years going back to when she moved here in 2004 from Thousand Oaks.  If you know Colly it will come as no surprise that she is just as enthusiastic about plants as she is about good food. She gardens with a resident deer population and had lots to say about this dilemma.

When she first moved to the Ben Lomond property there was "nothing in the garden but bottlebrush and bare ground" she said. Not wanting to fence the property she has come to know what the deer are not interested in eating for dinner- in her garden anyway. Located right on the San Lorenzo River, her garden blends perfectly with the natural woodland setting.

A huge Fragrantissima Improved rhododendron poked its beautiful white flower trusses through an ornamental low fence. A Sally Holmes rose bloomed atop the fence, too. Colly explained she has included several roses in the garden and will spray them with a bitter repellent if the deer become too interested but often surrounding a rose with plants the deer don't like is enough to keep the buds safe.

A beautiful purple Grand Slam rhododendron bloomed nearby. Colly keeps plant tags in her Sunset Western Gardening book so she can look up a plants name when necessary. Given the hundreds of beautiful specimens in the garden this is no easy task.

I was surprised to see so many azaleas blooming in the garden. I knew rhododendrons are deer resistant but it surprised me to learn that her azaleas thrive also . Colly grows Encore azaleas that bloom continually throughout the season. They border all the garden paths and this first flush of flowers was spectacular.

She has an Iceberg rose intertwined with a Jackmanii clematis. The buds of the clematis were not quite open but I can imagine how stunning this purple and white combination will be. I love Iceberg roses. They scent the air with honey and vanilla. Colly doesn't worry about pruning the clematis according to the book. She "leaves it alone" and from the looks of the many buds about to burst with color it's doing just fine.

Another gardening tip Colly shared with me is her use of bungee cords to quickly hold up a plant until she has the time to tie it up properly. She buys 5 of these cords for a dollar and swears by their usefulness.

We stopped to admire a Cherokee Brave dogwood in full bloom. Underneath,  blue violet columbines covered the ground. As they reseed the patch grows larger and larger. The blue and pink made a breathtaking  combination blooming at the same time.

As we strolled through the garden I saw many other plants happily growing in spite of the deer. Fragrant daphne, fuchsia thymifolia, Australian fuchsia, Jack Frost brunnera, Mt. Tamboritha grevillea, lily-of-the-valley and Cape plumbago were all untouched. It surprised me to hear that she is replacing a large stand of white rockrose with Kaleidescope abelia. Seems her deer loved this rockrose and "ate it to the ground". Go figure about rockroses. Along her road there were lots of the dark pink variety not even nibbled in the slightest.

We finished our tour at the new sitting area she has created to enjoy with her husband in the evening. I'm sure it's the perfect way to end the day.
 

Fragrant Roses & How to Prune Them

I'm daydreaming about the flowers of spring and summer and what could be more impressive than a big, fragrant, jewel-toned rose? There are some great new ones out this year that I have my eye on. Maybe you have room for one more.

Fragrance is a requirement for me when it comes to roses. First thing when we admire a beautiful rose is to bend over and smell it. Sure vase life and petal count are important but who can resist a fragrant rose? With that in mind, several of the new varieties out this year fit my bill. Consider one of these for your garden.

Orchid Romance is a small, medium pink to lavender floribunda rose. It has a strong citrus aroma on warm days. Grown on its own root it has good disease resistance and holds up well in a bouquet. Medium large, very full flower clusters bloom in flushes throughout the season.

Sugar Moon is an elegant pure white rose with huge, full, classically formed buds. Saturated with an intensely sweet citrus and rose fragrance the scent is said to nearly bowl you over. Long cutting stems makes this a perfect addition for the cutting garden. Superior disease resistance is another plus for this new rose.

Cold weather earlier this month has kept roses in the garden dormant but now is the time to prune them before they start leafing out which wastes plant energy. I want them to produce lots of roses on a compact shrub not just a few exhibition size so I prune shrubs moderately.  Heirlooms, however, require less pruning because their open look is part of their charm.  Remember your goal is to keep the center of the plant open for good air circulation.  Aim for a vase-shaped bush with an open center by cutting out crossing canes, spindly, weak, broken or diseased stems as well as dead wood. Cut back the remaining stems by about one-third, cutting canes at a 45-degree angle, just above an outward facing bud.

Don't worry whether you're pruning job is perfect. Roses are super forgiving and you can trim them up again later. I once helped prune the rose garden at historic Gamble Gardens in Palo Alto. To revitalize the old shrubs we sawed out most of the beefy canes. I didn't think they could recover in time for the big May bloom but they did and were spectacular. Roses are like redwoods -you can't kill one- they're the energizer bunnies of the plant world.

Climbing roses require little pruning. Cut out extra stems if there are too many and also cut back long established canes to where they are slightly thicker than a pencil. Then cut each side stem down to several inches. This will cause the cane to flower along its complete length for a beautiful spring display.

Remove any leaves that may still be clinging to the bush. Rake up debris beneath the plant and discard to eliminate overwintering fungus spores. It's a good idea to spray the bare plant and the surrounding soil with a combination organic horticultural oil to smother overwintering insect eggs and a dormant spray like lime-sulfur to kill fungus spores. If you usually only have problems with black spot you can use a mixture of 1 teaspoon baking soda with a few drops of light oil in 1 quart water and spraying every 7 to 10 days.

And that's all there is to it. Email me if you have any questions.
 

Roses for the Santa Cruz Mountains

The weather this year has agreed with my roses. It may seem like we’re living in England lately, but the roses have appreciated the cool, moist spring- all the better to set lots of buds without a sudden heat wave to ruin the show. Every rose lover I’ve talked to is raving about the quality, quantity and extended bloom time for their roses.

Roses are available in so many shapes, sizes, colors and fragrances that almost every garden has a place for at least one. They provide structure and proportion to the landscape and are among the most showy and hardworking of all garden plants. The rose was selected as our National flower in 1986. England may have a few years on us in this department as it’s been their national emblem since the Wars of the Roses in 1455.

Who grew the first rose? Fossilized plants over 30 million years old can be linked to modern rose species. The Chinese were probably the first to cultivate roses, however. Five hundred years BC, Confucius wrote of roses in the Imperial Gardens. Roses have been under cultivation in China before they were introduced to the European market in the late 18th century. The ancient Greeks cultivated roses extensively. The Romans imported roses from Egypt. They also established a thriving rose-growing industry south of Rome forcing them into bloom during the winter in greenhouses and irrigating with warm water.

In the genus Rosa there are over 150 species or styles of roses that have specific characteristics. These species roses are plants that grow in the wild and from which all other roses are descended. Hybridization happens in nature by bees and other insects but man has taken the process to an intricate art and hybrid roses now account for over 1000 different kinds. From old garden roses like Damask and Bourbon to modern roses like hybrid tea, floribunda and grandiflora to tree roses, climbing roses, miniatures, the choices are endless.

Which types grow well here? From my own experience and that of other designers and rose aficionados, my
all-time favorite is the popular Sally Holmes. It’s disease resistant, everblooming, handles our summer heat and winter cold with ease and has few thorns. Large, long lasting clusters of single peachy-white blooms cover this 10 ft spreading shrub that acts more like a climber. Because the flower is simple in form and doesn’t contain many petals it can handle foggy, cool conditions and resist fungal diseases.

English roses, like Golden Celebration, need warmth to perform well. With 5" blooms of 50+ petals, they are reliable if you get lots of heat. Same goes for the rich, golden-yellow Graham Thomas rose. Both are fragrant.

Roses that I have found to bloom in shady conditions are Ballerina, a wonderfully fragrant, small, pink hybrid musk rose. Dense, hardy and vigorous it’s easy to grow. I also grow the magenta climber, Zepherine Drouhin, in the shade. It grows to 8-12 ft tall and has a strong raspberry scent. Iceberg performs well in part shade, too, with large, double, pure white blooms that scent the air with a rich, honey perfume. I like that it’s thornless, too. I’ve been told that the miniature, Gourmet Popcorn, also tolerates shade.

Deer love to eat roses. Even roses with terrible thorns have susceptible new growth before the thorns have had time to harden.  The new growth also has an increased amount of nutrients. I’ve heard that Rugosa roses are fairly deer resistant and well as The Fairy. Hope springs eternal.

This column is not long enough to go into the best way to plant and grow roses. But if you have a choice, it’s best to plant them where they receive at least morning sun as this allows the foliage to dry before fungus spores take hold.

Every garden or patio has a place for at least one wonderfully fragrant rose.